I’m not sure when it had started. I used to be able to focus on reading one book from start to finish before picking up and starting another book. But, for some reason, over the years, I’ve devolved into one of those readers who must tackle several books at once.
The picture above (as well as my Goodreads page) show you exactly how many books I’m reading. Yes, there are six of them – four novels and two short story collections. Although, to be honest, I just finished reading The Method Writers by the Rogues Gallery Writers last night. (So I’m down to five books … at the moment.) Yes, I’m one of the authors of The Method Writers. And reading the novel (well, re-reading) is not completely out of vanity (well, that may be debatable.) I was re-reading it from a critical standpoint as we (the Rogues and our publisher, Dreamer Publications) are preparing/updating the manuscript for its paperback release this summer.
I believe the main reason (besides my ADD) that I juggle (no, not literally – I’m not that coordinated) so many different books at once is that I’ll start reading a thick paperback I’m excited about and then it becomes a true pain in the ass to read … in the most physical sense of the word. Don DeLillo’s Underworld for example. It’s a chunky 832 page brick. It can hurt my pre-arthiritc hands to even hold open after a long day of hacking away at a computer keyboard. And the print is so small (not War and Peace small, which is so fucking small you need a magnifying glass to read, but still) that it strains my pre-bifocal eyes to read after a long day of staring at a computer monitor. I’ve actually switched to the Kindle version of Underworld, because it’s a challenging enough read without the physical barriers.
I’d switch to the Kindle version of Graham Greene’s 594 page Complete Short Stories paperback with small print and little-to-no white space, but it doesn’t exist. So I can only read his collection in small chunks, which, being a short story collection, works out just fine. Upton Sinclair’s Oil! isn’t much better (560 pages packed with smallish print and long paragraphs,) but it’s design is a little better and I’m far enough into it where I’m not about to throw out extra cash just to get the Kindle version.
Chuck Palahniuk’s Invisible Monsters Remix is not a thick book by comparison (wearing a white cover and weighing in at only 302 pages) and the text is not too small. But it comes with other challenges. The font used for the text is very light, almost gray, so it can be a strain to read, especially without proper lighting. And, in this “Remix” hardback release (the initial publication of IM was only paperback,) Chuck wanted his initial concept to be carried out, which is a non-linear, glossy magazine approach to structure with each chapter ending with a “Now, Please, Jump to Chapter XX.” This alone is not too annoying, but there is also “hidden” content that none of the main stories’ chapters point to. These are essays and extras that Chuck created specifically for this release. Again, not too too annoying. However, some of these extra chapters are printed backwards. Chuck envisioned his readers needing to hold the book up to a mirror to be able to read the text in these sections, so they could actually see themselves in the mirror while reading Chuck’s book. Now that is not only annoying, it’s terribly, terribly stupid. Instead of succumbing to his wish, I learned how to read backwards, and I became pretty proficient at it too (Ha Ha, you didn’t trick me with your schemes, Chuck Palahniuk!!!) In some of the extras, he even jokes about making you work so hard to read the entire book, like he’s being ultra clever and getting off on it. Like Tyler Durden had asked, “How’s that working out for you?” Well, considering his success and that his books still sell, I guess it’s working out well enough.
The only book I haven’t mentioned from my list is Amber Sparks’ short story collection, May We Shed These Human Bodies, which is a delightful read (reading it on Kindle,) containing short, quirky pieces of fiction told from some pretty unique perspectives.
So, Swesky, what’s the point of all this dribble? Well, I’m still a big fan of the physical book, and besides being a reader and an author, I’m also a book designer and an independent publisher. Therefore, when designing or publishing a book, I do my best to avoid the types of issues I’ve mentioned above and attempt to create a product that will make for an enjoyable reading experience. I want my audience to own a cool-looking book that’s comfortable to hold. I want the text to be big enough so it doesn’t strain the typical reader’s eyes. I want the font to be legible, letters that are easy to make out. And I want plenty of white space to give the eyes the little breaks that they need and deserve.
What I’ve learned as a read is that if a paperback or hardcover I wish to read is a tome and/or contains print that’s hard to read, I’ll purchase the Kindle or electronic version (if available) instead. My bookshelves are getting full anyway. 😉